Starting a Business
Opening a new business is a significant investment of financial and personal resources. New businesses are important to the financial health of the County. The County wants to assist you through the regulatory process to ensure your business has a positive impact on the community/neighborhood, is safe to occupy, and opens as quickly as possible.
This Web page provides an overview of the various regulatory requirements to open your business. Since each business and its proposed location are unique, it is important to note that this is a general overview, and there will be variations among projects.
1. Before Purchasing a Building or Signing a Lease - Ask the current building owner or the leasing company to provide information on the current status of the site, building, and tenant space to determine the impact of the existing conditions on the process of opening your business.
- Zoning – Confirm the existing approved Zoning, and determine that your proposed use is permitted on the site in accordance with the Prince William County Zoning Ordinance.
- Proffers or Conditions – Confirm whether the property is subject to any monetary, site or architectural proffers or conditions.
- Certificate of Occupancy – Determine the previous occupant and verify that a Certificate of Occupancy was issued. Also, compare the Building Code Use Group of the Certificate of Occupancy with the Building Code Use Group for your business. See Building Use Group Definitions and Use Groups & Certificate of Occupancy for more information.
- Joint Occupancy Evaluation Program -- Determine if your proposed location qualifies for the Joint Occupancy Evaluation Program, which can expedite the occupancy process.
- Site and Building Plans – Determine if the current building owner or the leasing company can provide copies of previously approved site plans and building plans. If revised/new plans are required during the process, significant costs can be saved.
If the current building owner or leasing agent cannot provide any or all of the above information, contact or visit the County offices. The Planning/Zoning Office and the Building Development Division of the Department of Development services are located in the Development Services Building at 5 County Complex Court
, Prince William, VA 22192.
2. Project Management
- Project Team – If you do not have experience in the design and construction process, consider hiring a consultant, architect, engineer, or contractor to act as your project manager. A project manager is typically responsible for coordinating and tracking your project through the entire process: purchasing/leasing property, design, permitting, construction and inspections. Deficient project management will result in delays and additional costs to you as a business owner.
- Scope of Work – It is critical to establish how you need the space to be designed for your business, and the technical requirements needed to support the space design. Once a realistic scope of work is established, your project manager can provide an estimated project schedule and project budget.
3. Determine and Register Trade Name
- It is beneficial to complete this process before requesting Zoning approval, so the Zoning approval will be issued under the correct business name.
4. Business Licensing -
Prince William County requires a County Business License
. Typically the business license is issued after an Occupancy Permit is issued.
5. Planning/Zoning Approval
- Home Office/Business - If you are starting a business from your home without employees or customers coming to your home, you must obtain a home occupation permit.
- New Building or Building Addition - If you are constructing a new building or an addition, an engineer will need to develop a Site Plan for review and approval by the County. Before the engineer begins the design work, the existing Zoning should be evaluated for the proposed use. Also, the engineer should contact the Prince William County Service Authority to coordinate water/sewer design issues.
- Existing Building - Please contact or visit the Zoning Counter with the property information. Based on the existing Zoning of the property/building, a determination will be made on the level of Zoning Approval required (i.e. Zoning Approval Site Plan Provisional Use Permit Special Use Permit or Rezoning).
- New Building/Addition – These two scenarios will require a submission of building plans for review and approval. If the building has a fire suppression system and/or fire alarm system, the Fire Marshal's Office will review and approve the fire protection plans.
- Existing Tenant Space with Change of Use – This will require a submission of Tenant Layout Plans for review and approval. The Change of Use requires the tenant space to be brought into compliance with the current Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and the issuance of a new Certificate of Occupancy. If the fire suppression system and/or fire alarm system are being installed or altered, the Fire Marshal's Office will review and approve the fire protection plans.
- Existing Tenant Space, Not a Change of Use (see Joint Occupancy Evaluation Program (Policy 2.4)) - If you locate in a building or tenant space that has been previously occupied by a similar Use Group, after receiving Zoning Approval, a Joint Occupancy Evaluation Permit Application can be submitted at the Building Development Division. Safety inspections will be conducted by the Building Code Enforcement staff and the Fire Marshal's Office, and a determination will be made on whether or not plans and permits are required. If plans are not required, once any safety deficiencies are mitigated, an Occupancy Permit can be issued.
- Alteration/Repair – If an existing space has a valid Certificate of Occupancy and renovations are proposed, the Alteration/Repair Plans must be submitted for review and approval. Only those portions of the building/tenant space that are being renovated must be brought into compliance with the current Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. If the fire suppression system and/or fire alarm system is being installed or altered, the Fire Marshal’s Office will review and approve the fire protection plans.
- Permit Issuance – When the design/plans have been approved and permit fees have been paid, the licensed contractor can obtain permits.
- Inspections – Based on the actual scope of work, the types of inspections required will vary. Please see Inspection Scheduling - Automated Systems for additional information. For Alteration/Repair Permits, the final inspection approval will serve as the legal document for completion. However, a building owner or tenant can request a new Certificate of Occupancy, and one will be issued. For new buildings, additions, and tenant layout, a Certificate of Occupancy will be issued as the legal document for completion.